K: Killing Spree (1987)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

First of all, don’t strain yourself looking for this scene.

I was supposed to do Krampus here. That seemed like a good idea nearly a year ago when I came up with this list. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking straight. I tend to fall into fits of apoplectic rage when stores start putting up Christmas supplies in late August. I did not foresee that the same thing would happen when I tried to watch an Xmas monster movie for my favorite month of the year.

So. Killing Spree. Written and directed by Tim Ritter, who crap cineastes will recognize as the man behind Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness. This will become obvious as the movie progresses, but that’s not a bad thing.

Tom (Asbestos Felt) is a mechanic for a small struggling airline. Pay cuts have become the order of the day, so there’s a severe money crunch on, not aided by the fact that Tom refuses to let his wife Leeza (Courtney Lercara) go back to work. His state of mind is outlined when his best friend, the pilot Ben (Raymond Carbone) comes over for dinner and announces he has a girlfriend who is only 20 years old; not only is Tom extremely put out by this, but he suspects Ben is trying to make time with Leeza, and throws his old friend out in a rage. He tells Leeza afterwards that his first wife left him, and if Leeza did that, he would go insane.

Yeah, that’s kinda your plot right there.

See that red light? That means he’s NUTS!!!!

After a truly bizarre nightmare sequence concerning Ben and Leeza (and I mean quite unexpectedly bizarre, the first inclination you get that this is not going to be your typical direct to VHS gore flick), Tom finds a black notebook that details sexy dalliances with delivery men, TV repair men, the lawn guy and the like. So naturally Tom begins to do away with them in a variety of bloody, rococo fashions, some of them quite nasty. The standouts involve a chainsaw in the basement (just to make sure, a length of intestine is pulled out and plugged into a light socket to electrocute the victim), some machete blades attached to a ceiling fan, and a lawnmower, which just proved to me that Ritter read the same underground horror comic books as me while growing up.

Like I said, this is not your typical direct to video excuse for a movie – after he’s racked up an impressive body count, and feels it’s finally time to properly punish Leeza – his victims rise from the grave to exact vengeance, giving rise to a lot of extremely dark comedy. And oh yeah, Tom finds out that the entries in that notebook were rough drafts for stories Leeza was writing for her favorite magazine, Romping Romances – which she just sold for 1500 bucks so Tom wouldn’t have to get a second job.

Which doesn’t help with all the zombies banging at the door, of course.

“Hi there! They spent dang near all the money on me!”

This is Ritter’s fourth movie, made directly after Truth or Dare, which I watched earlier in the year. ToD was made when he only 19 years, and I was actually quite impressed with it. Ritter was pretty sure where he wanted to place his camera, his pacing was good, even if the logic was often very suspect.

“Very suspect logic” will cover Killing Spree, too, but then it’s basically an EC Comics story stretched to feature length, and the stretching can be verrrrry tedious early on (for instance, being told the story of why Tom’s co-worker is called “Stewmaster”. Answer: He is really good at making stew).  But there is another thing carried over from the first Truth or Dare that I liked, and that’s the fact that Ritter likes to show the disintegration of his main character’s sanity, not gloss over it in a scene or two. That speaks of a level of care in the filmmaker that goes beyond your typical gore flick. And when Tom does lose it, it has to be admitted that Asbestos Felt absolutely goes for it. Ritter obviously told him to go over the top, and then announced that the top was somewhere in the orbit of Jupiter.

That’s Raymond Carbone there, who may impress you as the dollar store version of Jerry Orbach, but he’s really good in this (and he was the detective in Truth or Dare). In fact, Ritter does very well in the actor category for this movie.

We won’t talk about that fairly lamentable severed head. There are much better FX to be had later.

The clip above and the gory trailer below (just in case you needed to see that head scene again) may not change your mind about DTV horror movies from the late 80s, but this one actually is a cut above (as it were). Some care is evident in the execution, and when I hit play, I wasn’t expecting to find a movie with so much… well, “heart” isn’t the appropriate phrase, let’s say moxie. A movie with this much moxie.